The Tragic Truth About Football Player Brains

In recent years, there's been a growing conversation about the effects of football on the human brain. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known simply as CTE, is a condition in which the brain deteriorates. It is caused when someone endures excessive and repeated injury to their head, says Mayo Clinic. Because the sport of football allows tackling, blocking, and other moves that are often aggressive, a lot of football players might experience a concussion or head trauma during play. But football players aren't small guys, and the constant contact is detrimental to the brain, research suggests.

CTE is a disease that is only discovered at the time of an autopsy, particularly during a comprehensive examination of the brain. This means that CTE is determined in the brain of a football player who has died. Researchers found that 99% of former football professional players had CTE, as well as 91% of former college football players, says Boston University.

Football versus CTE

The link between football and CTE has led to more awareness about the effects of brain damage, changes from the NFL, and how CTE can lead to certain behavioral changes in football players.

Unfortunately, further research has shown how football affects every football player's brain — even high schoolers, per Neurology. Data from 2015 research has even suggested that young men who began playing football at an early age have a stronger link to behavioral and cognitive problems. As a result, there's also a connection between youth football players who continued to play football and having brain-related health issues later in life. The research concluded that playing football is connected to signs of impairment and intelligence in former football players.

This sadly means these issues that might progress and worsen over time because as CTE gradually deteriorates the brain, the symptoms can become more frequent. The symptoms include forgetfulness and being unable to recall things, a lack of clear thinking and functioning, changes in mood and personality, and having thoughts of suicide or violence (via Alzheimer's Association). The signs of CTE often don't show up until years later, which means someone who played football could spend all of their life as themselves and then experience a sudden change in behavior because the symptoms of CTE have crept up in later life.

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